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Highways, Dept. of

 Record Group
Identifier: HWYS

Scope and Contents

This record group contains records created and maintained by the South Dakota Department of Highways and includes highway and bridge construction plans and photographs, petitions, litigation files, publicitiy photographs and films, highway planning survey files, State Highway Commission audit reports, and records pertaining to the 1972 Rapid City flood.


  • 1914 - 1980

Administrative History

The South Dakota Department of Highways was responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges and the promotion of tourism in the state between 1955 and 1973.

The first act providing for a State Highway Commission was passed by the South Dakota Legislature in 1913. The commission was made up of three members appointed by the Governor for a term of four years with not more than two members being of the same political party. The purpose of the commission was to “determine the location of road material in the state, ascertain the most approved methods of construction and improvement of roads, investigate the most approved laws in relation to roads in other states and hold public meetings throughout the state when deemed advisable” (Session Laws of 1913, Chapter 233, Sections 1-3). In 1917, the State Highway Commission was replaced by the State Highway Department composed of the Governor, State Engineer, and a civil engineer with road construction experience. At this time the state agreed to provisions of Public Law 156 of the Sixty-Fourth U.S. Congress which provided federal funds to aid states in road building projects. It was the duty of the department “to supervise, control, and direct the building of public roads and bridges,” which were financed by state or federal funds (Session Laws of 1917, Chapter 359, Sections 1-5). The State Highway Department was abolished in 1919 and the State Highway Commission recreated to assume the duties and powers of the former department (Session Laws of 1919, Chapter 333, Sections 1-4). The Department of Highways was established in 1955. The Director of Highways, appointed by the State Highway Commission to a four-year term, was the executive and administrative head of the department and also served as the secretary of the commission (Session Laws of 1955, Chapter 105, Sections 1-2).

In 1973, an executive reorganization order (Executive Order No. 73-1) dismantled the Department of Highways and distributed its functions to newly created departments. The Publicity Division of the Department of Highways, which was responsible for promoting tourism in South Dakota, was transferred to the Department of Economic and Tourism Development. All other Department of Highways functions were transferred to the Department of Transportation--Division of Highways. The new Department of Transportation allowed for more comprehensive management of the state's transportation systems, including highways, railroads, and aeronautics.


30.1 Cubic Feet

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Related Materials

Additional government records related to highways, travel, and tourism can be found in the following record groups: Department of Transportation (DOT); Department of Economic and Tourism Development (DETD); Department of Tourism and State Development (TSD); Department of Tourism (TOUR).
Guide to the Records of the South Dakota Department of Highways
In Process
Sara Casper, Government Records Archivist, and Brandon Pieczko, Processing Archivist
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Preparation of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the South Dakota State Archives Repository

900 Governors Dr
Pierre South Dakota 57501 USA
605-773-6041 (Fax)